Sunday, August 26, 2007

Holiday

Started our week holiday today with a visit to the Alice themed Adventure Wonderland near Bournemouth Airport. Took our daughter Molly and her best mate Aedan who had the finest time. Tomorrow we're off to London for a few days to take in the Natural History and Science Museum. Full report to follow on Friday.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A railway Station of my own

Apparently there's a railway station bearing my name in Copenhagen.

Holy shit it's the Human Fly



Look! It's the Human Fly. Thanks Warren Ellis. I'd forgotten there was a "real" Fly until I saw this,

The Human Fly was a 70's Marvel comic with very cool art by Frank Robbins, Lee Elias and Bob Lubbers about a "real" escape artist and stunt man. Art aside it had very little to recommend it but Robbins, Elias and Lubbers were enough for me. The book was written by Bill Mantlo in a sort of A Team style that was entertaining but essentially very throw away.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Stephen Fry don't read this.

Scandinavian film, literature and legends often seem to have a melancholic air about them that reflects something in the nature of the land or the people. From the doom that hangs over the Norse myths to the Little Mermaid to the films of Ingmar Bergman. For me however few things illustrate this melancholia as well as Tove Jansson's Moomin books.

I've just started reading Moominvalley in November, coincidentally BBC 4 have just started advertising "The Secret life of the manic depressive" with Stephen Fry. This is not a book for a manic depressive and I heartily recommend Stephen Fry doesn't read it. If the book was a painting it would be all in shades of blue and grey, it's an early Autumn day when you know the world is about to get colder and darker, if it were a song it would be the plaintive sound of Edith Piaf, it's the lone cry of a solitary dog in the night.

I read the first three chapters sat on a crowded bus and can rarely recall feeling so alone.

Yet for all it's sadness it has a beauty to the prose that is compelling, all the characters so far are longing for something more.

I'll update this when I've read more.

Friday, August 17, 2007

you can go home again

Today I picked up a dip pen for the first time in maybe 6 years and I feel like an amputee who's limb has grown back. The dip pen was probably the first thing I drew with beforetrying out brushes and a variety of more portable and less messy fibre pens and penbrushes,every one of which was so uncomfortable I soon moved on to the next thing to try. Recently I'd been reading a lot about artists work tools and was suprised to see so many people still advocating the dip pen. Now I'm no luddite or technophobe but I've never been able to get to grips with drawing on my wacom tablet and technical pens, with their one width line, still seem a little soulless to me. Alternately I have a great deal of respect for people who can make a brush dance to their tune producing art of such fluid lines it's like watching waves come in on a seashore. But it's not me, it's not my style. Pencils and pens and a piece of paper in front of me, that's the way I need to work. I can manipulate the artwork in photoshop or whatever afterwards but the main work needs to be done with a dip pen and bristol board.

For this revelatiopn I'd like to thank Richard Outcault, Rudolph Dirks, Bud Fisher, Frank King, Billy Debeck and Harold Gray whose varied pen styles reminded me that the brush isn't the only tool.

new toy

Yesterday we bought a new toy, a laptop, with my back dated pay rise. It's very nice, 15.4" wide screen, great for DVD's, and it has a dvd burner, which is another upgrade for us. It's almost a necessity in a house with three computer users and only one computer. Between my wife and my daughter I usually have to use the internet at work these days if I want to look at anything or update on here. Now at least there'll always be a computer available in the evening.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shadow over Baker Street

I'm not a great fan of Sherlock Holmes, I've read many of the short stories and been pleasantly suprised by them and I'll watch Basil Rathbone happily, although Nigel Bruce's Watson was always far to bumbling and blustering. For Crime I'd rather check out the Americans, be it Chandler or Moseley in writing or Bogart and Robinson and Cagney on screen. Nor am I a fan of H P Lovecraft. There are few books I've given up on in my near 40 years of reading but Lovecraft I couldn't even finish one of his short stories, the writing was turgid and I couldn't see the magic fans seem to be able to see. So I suprised myself when I picked up the short story collection, Shadows over Baker Street and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The collection was based around the conceit of the ultimate rationalist, Holmes, encountering the "irrational" world of the Cthulu mythos and in general the stories work very well. Some vere towards pastiche and some, like the Mystery of the Hanged Man invoke the voices of the cinema Holmes better than the literary Holmes, The adventure of the Voorish Sign felt more like a Hammer horror and left visions of Peter Cushing burning down buildings made of coal. Most of the writers remained true to the spirit of Conan Doyle without aping his style and probably only Neil Gaiman let his personal style over-power the source material.

Strangely, all the writers, although showing an obvious affection for the Lovecraft material, chose not to write in a style like Lovecraft thus placing Cthulu in Holmes world rather then Holmes in Lovecraft's. Caitlin Keirnan and Simon Clark wrote the standout stories for me and both are writers whose work I shall check out in the future.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Scooby Doo

The nice thing about children, for someone like me with a popular media fixation, is how they introduce you to new things. Molly has introduced me to the newest version of Scooby Doo. I never liked Scooby Doo in it's varied incarnations since it began in 1969 or whenever. It was one of those things where the idea was superior to the end product. Finally, however, someone has produced a version of Scooby Doo that actually works for me. "Shaggy and Scooby Doo get a clue", produced by Ruby Spears under the auspices of WB Animation, updates and redesigns the characters for the current decade. Both Shaggy and Scooby have been given real personalities that reach beyond the usual hungry coward scenarios. These two have finally been brought to the fore, recognising that the rest of the gang were really only supporting characters, given a fortune and a high tech mansion to operate out of and, while still scared of the villains they face they now stand up to them.

The rest of the gang are occasional guest stars in the series with very agreeable updated designs. The colour and design are both flatter, more cartoonlike, rather than the very modelled and airbrushed look of previous series. The stories are also less cliched, the monster isn't old Mr McGinty, the caretaker and no one says, "I'd have got away with it if it wasn't for you meddling kids". The monster of the week is replaced with a regular recurring villain, Dr Phibes, who again is given more personality than any old time baddy. My daughter loves the show and it's something we can share rather than Fifi and the Flowertops or My Little Pony. The show is worth looking out for and if you don't have access to the Boomerang channel check out Youtube which has video of the excellent theme tune and part of the first episode.

Checking around the internet I found numerous posts decrying this new version of Scooby Doo. Strangely they all seemed to be from adults, who obviously aren't the intended audience, upset about someone playing with their childhood toys. My daughter and her friends on the otherhand love the show, and the older versions as well.

God bless Mr Weiringo


Mike Weiringo died a couple of days ago. I'm getting kind of used to losing the old guys but Weiringo was, I think, only 44, 2 years my senior. Kind of scarey. I don't think I ever read anything he drew, never read Tellos, Flash, Fantastic Four or Spiderman when he was drawing them. I did check out his blog on a very regular basis to see all the wonderful line art he put on there. The one thing that always struck me about his work was the sheer joy of his work. His characters always looked like heroes rather than protagonists, in the Alex Toth mold rather than the Frank Miller mold.

My prayers go out to Weiringo's family and friends.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The coolest

Is this just the coolest news or what, Mike Kunkel (Herobear) on Shazam. For kids, Finally something I can show my daughter.



And Art Balthazar of Patrick the Wolf Boy fame on Tiny Titans. Molly's gonna love that. I just hope she understands the one month wait where she's used to english weeklies.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Misanthropic, that's more like it

You Are 76% Misanthropic

Here's the truth: Most people suck. You are just lucky enough to know it.
You're not ready to go live alone in a cave - but you're getting there.

Sociopath, what's that?

You Are 40% Sociopath

From time to time, you may be a bit troubled and a bit too charming for your own good.
It's likely that you're not a sociopath... just quite smart and a bit out of the mainstream!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Curses



This is another fine book. Kevin Huizenga was someone I knew by reputation only prior to this splendid hardback volume and this was an expensive impulse purchase that really paid off. Huizenga's art style lies somewhere between that of Herge and L Z Segar but his writing is what makes the book more than anything. Working through a literary alter ego, Glenn Ganges, Huizenga takes elements of autobiography and weaves them together with the spiritual and the mythological yet remains fully grounded in a way the same material would not do in the hands a more fanastic writer. Huizenga retells Le Fanu's "Green Tea" within the context of events his lead character is living through, the appearance of a ghost dog and tells the tale of a golfing buddy and theological professor who is concerned for his spiritual welfare and rethinks his idea of hell based on his meetings with Glenn Ganges. The best tribute to the strength of Huizenga's storytelling is that the book bears up well on subsequent readings and will probably become one of a small number I read each year.

Kevin Huizenga has a handful of strips on line at his USS Catastrophe site

Pan's Labyrinth



I first saw Del Toro's movie on a tiny screen on a flight to Sydney and watched it twice in a row, stunned by the overpowering atmosphere the film generated. I then rented the DVD on my return home and watched it a further 3 times. I am hard pressed to think of another movie that has made open woodlands seem so oppressive and closed in as this one did when the soldiers, mounted on their horses, chase down the "Communist" rebels in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Even the dark and gloomy interiors seemed less threatening. Ofelia, the young girl lead played by Ivana Baquero, is superb, constantly understated in her performance, and is totally believable as a child mourning her father and hating her step father. Her wandering into the Labyrinth and her acceptance of all that follows reflects her desperation to find something to cling to in the face of her mother's new relationship. Sergi Lopez, who plays the central villain Captain Vidal, is incredible, a Mexican comedic actor who gives the sort of performance only comedians can give in this sort of dark role. Vidal is a tragic figure, destroyed by his father and his father's reputation as a soldier he has become a twisted and totally evil character. At the same time you are able to understand why and so he doesn't become a charicature. The make up and creature designs are equally unusual. The Faun looks like a C Scott Morse design, with it's strangely wide head and curling horns, and the faeries look like stick insects with leaf wings.

The whole film is closer in style to old folk tales with their somewhat bloody stylings then the more bloodless versions that came from the likes of Charles Perrault on down to Disney. And all the more watchable for it.

Watch it, or better yet buy it and watch it over and over again.